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June 28, 2019



"Brexit is about prioritizing a conception of national sovereignty over GDP"

Someone should have told all those British colonies that independence was overrated, and money is far more important, so no need to go through all that difficult 'Leaving an Empire' malarky..........

Robert S Mitchell

GDP is stupid because it assumes ergodicity. See https://twitter.com/ole_b_peters/status/1140196883111059458?s=20

"it fails even more fundamentally to measure how I'm doing. It measures the aggregate, not the individual. Because of non-ergodicity one cannot substitute one for the other."

GDP is precisely the type of false image that leads decision makers to operate in purely imaginary worlds that The Boulding quotation is talking about.


Do you think that the Tories suffer more from this problem than other parties?

John Davies

About to start my MBA. Absolutely reading Managing Britannia before I go.

Love your opinions. Thanks for sharing them.

Frances Woolley

Another great column! Particularly like this: "the larger and more authoritarian the organization, the better the chance that its top decision-makers will be operating in purely imaginary worlds"

This explains so much about modern university life.


@Jim: "Someone should have told all those British colonies that independence was overrated, and money is far more important, so no need to go through all that difficult 'Leaving an Empire' malarky..."

Chalk, meet cheese.


I would guess that Sarah Vine is not being candid, and knows pretty well how things work in reality, but reckons that many of her voters are oldies risking dementia, and their tory-voting heirs are afraid their seniors would have to sell their property to fund care for dementia, and talk is cheap.

As to the overall tory perspective my personal impression is that master class people don't regard servant class people as "real people", just as servant class people often cannot imagine third world people as "real people" as opposed to sad statistics.

Anyhow the standard tory attitude to helping the poor and unfortunate is very simple: they are very good at wringing their hands and asking "how is this not a national scandal?", they are absolutely for everybody who needs benefits to have them, just as long as taxes stay low and they don't have to pay for those benefits.


«Someone should have told all those British colonies that independence was overrated, and money is far more important, so no need to go through all that difficult 'Leaving an Empire' malarky..........»

Someone should tell the same to the people of Scotland, Dorset, Tyneside, Dyfed, that it is better to be part of an oppressive supranational state in which they have no representation and whose elites are exploitative, than risk being independent. :-)


The EU is an association of independent, sovereign states. Those states have created institutions, with rules and processes which affect them all, so as to ease trade and cooperation in a wide variety of different areas.

Am empire is a collection of areas of the world run from one central state, often remote from the colonies that have little or no say in the rules and processes that govern them.

The citizens of the UK are now divided into those who understand that the EU is an association of states and those who have been conned into believing that the EU is an empire (Fourth |Reich, EUSSR). The latter have been conned by the very political party that did the most to integrate the UK into that association of states (and who worship the PM who did the most to link the UK into that association of states and create the rules and processes of its institutions).

For the first group, the Brexit debate is about recalibrating the UK's relationship with that association. For the second group it is about getting away at all costs from an imaginary evil empire.

Ironically, the most Brexity Conservative MPs have a habit of speaking regretfully about the fact that the UK no longer rules an Empire, while pretending that the EU is an Empire that treats the UK as a colony.


I was struck by the following article by Helen Lewis in the New Statesman about what is wrong with political journalism, and I agree with her conclusion that political journalists need to "look out of the window" at the real world.


Political journalism does indeed get a lot wrong because it starts with what politicians say or what it is political correct to say.

However, she doesn't explore why political journalism fails to "look out of the window" already. Could it be that the dissonance between what is accepted in politics and what is happening in the real world is often so great that politicians and correspondents would be greatly discomforted by starting with reality? Politics is a reified activity separate from ground truth, and political journalism mainly serves to throw up smoke-screens rather than highlighting the ground truth.


@ Guano. "The EU is an association of independent, sovereign states."

Great, I'll exercise my independent sovereign status by deciding who can come and live and work in my country.

Oh hang on a minute ...


all worlds are imaginary. You have to construct a mental model of the world around you in order to make sense of it. That model will inevitably not be the same as reality. The key is to have processes and systems that check the model against reality. Parliament is a major part of that process.


@dipper freedom of movement's is one of the things that association of states agreed upon as a key part of the association and requirement of membership.

One may, and obviously you do, believe that this is bad and enough reason not to be part of that association. A majority of people agree with you so we are operating our independent sovereign status to leave that association.

And this is exactly the point, if we don't like the rules, we can leave when we want. And that's what we're doing. So ultimately it is up to us who can live and work in our country.

Not the same as empire. Obvz


It is indeed ultimately up to us who can live and work in the UK, though we should not claim to be surprised that leaving the Single Market also means that UK citizens lose their rights to travel, work and settle in Europe, and also means the UK opting out of the freedom to trade in goods and services and capital around which the UK has built its economy. We should not claim to be surprised that Deus ex Machina (or German car-makers) have not asked the EU to give the UK a special deal which would be better than the rules of the SM that the UK itself wrote. We should not claim that it is Project Fear to suggest that there will be severe negative consequences if the UK leaves a set of institutions that the UK itself helped to build.

Freedom of Movement was not imposed on the UK. The UK helped to create it and accepted it. There is no problem if the UK has had buyers' remorse provided it thinks about why it was in favour in the first place.

David Gerard

> not actually evil

I'm less and less inclined to the "soul spectrometer" view, and more inclined to "if you spend nine years being functionally evil and working hard to support functional evil, then 'evil' is a perfectly good word and you have moral culpability".


Genuine question abut the Windrush scandal. (I promise I am not trying to score points or push an agenda here. I am genuinely mystified as to what exactly happened).

As I understand it, the phrase “Windrush Generation” refers to those people who emigrated from the Caribbean to the UK between 1948 and 1973, at a time when UK citizenship laws meant that they were technically merely moving between two parts of the same country (albeit two parts 3,000 miles apart).

In 2010 a “Hostile Environment” policy was brought in, to pressure non-Windrush illegal immigrants to the UK to self-deport and return home. Whatever effect it had on those illegals, it wound up leading to the detention (and in some cases, deportation) of a number of Windrush Brits (I believe the maximum figure for those effected is around 3,000 people). Even though some had been in the UK for more than 60 years, they had apparently left no documentary footprint of their citizenship in the UK’s national records.

It’s this last fact I find genuinely puzzling. If you’ve been continuously living in the UK since 1948, how is it possible for you not to leave any evidence of that in the records? Wouldn’t you have to set out to lead an off-grid life like the Unabomber to achieve that level of bureaucratic oblivion? Did none of these 3,000 people ever:

1) apply for a UK Passport
2) acquire a National Insurance number
3) marry another UK national
4) interact with the UK Tax service
5) interact with the NHS

… in such a way as to leave a record of their UK citizenship (or at least their entitlement to it) at some point before 2010?

I promise I’m not being heartless here, just genuinely puzzled. I always assumed I was living in a country with near-Stasi levels of data collected about everyone who lives here. But the Windrush scandal only makes sense if we assume the government is actually rather clueless as to who’s here and what they’re doing.



“The EU is an association of independent, sovereign states.”

Can we both agree that the USA isn’t an association of independent, sovereign states, but is itself a sovereign state.

This is because sovereign states have certain attributes, such as:

1) a common executive
2) a common legislature
3) a common judiciary and legal system
4) a common currency
5) a common tax system
6) a common foreign policy
7) a common military

The USA has all seven attributes. The EU has the first four (though the fourth is not yet universal), and there is constant advocacy for it acquiring all of the other three at the highest levels of power and influence within the EU.

If we compare the EU with other trading associations (e.g. NAFTA, CPTPP, ASEAN) it looks a lot more like a photo-sovereign state than any of them do.


@ georgesdelatour - exactly.

"Can we both agree that the USA isn’t an association of independent, sovereign states, but is itself a sovereign state."

Guy Verhofstadt used exactly the USA analogy to describe the UK leaving the EU. And he is now part of the EU negotiating team.

The EU seem to use a cake and eat-it approach. The states say one thing, the EC and European Parliament says something quite different.

The EC and the European Parliament are weird things. They don't really exist anywhere else in the world to my knowledge. And they are quite dangerous, as they have power and no responsibility. they are incentivised to act aggressively and create trouble with none of the responsibility that actually goes with being a state.

to repeat, the Brexit debate is largely about the EU, not the UK.

Mondal Construction

Nice post author. Thank you.

Tamal Bose

Nice post author. Thank you. Keep it up.



In the fly-on-the-wall documentary “Brexit: Behind Closed Doors”, after hearing that Teresa May has accepted the Withdrawal Agreement, a staffer for Guy Verhofstadt proclaims: “We finally turned them into a colony - that was our plan from the first moment”.

I think those EU officials giving press briefings about how it’s the WA or No Deal should at least be asked to explain the “colony” remark.


@ georgesdelatour

Re Fly-on-the-wall ... exactly.

Re Windrush. Judging by some of the case studies a lot fo the people had menial jobs, had brushes with the law, and generally tried to avoid being on the radar of he authorities. As a white man growing up in a northern city, quite a lot of my childhood school friends have led similar lives, and a few have criminal records for youthful indiscretions and mis-behaviour. I think quite a lot of those friends would have difficulty assembling the necessary paperwork to prove they had been resident in the UK all that time.So I think this requirement for documentation is discriminatory.

In addition, a lot of the Windrush generation have relatives still in the Caribbean and go back and forth, and I think this is entirely to be expected and reasonable behaviour.

The requirement for documentary proof or else people are thrown out is tantamount to retrospective legislation and is quite bad. Also, many EU citizens come over here under a FOM regime which in practical terms was quite lax, so requiring documentary proof is again a retrospective change in the terms of coming here. So we need an amnesty and to introduce a regime that creates documentary evidence through the daily interactions we all have with various institutions.

Personally, I'd outsource a lot of the immigration administration, because then you'd get a proper debate between government and those carrying out the administration around what is practical and reasonable. The current system has a conflict of interest in that we are never sure when the Home Secretary stands up if they are speaking for the people or speaking for the Home Office officials.

I'd also have ID cards, so that from the start we are building documentary and IT proof of residential status.



The "colony" line was a joke. You just didn't get it.


"Guy Verhofstadt ... is now part of the EU negotiating team."

No he isn't.

Keep going guys, you're doing great.



I'm glad you were able to speak to the staffer in question and clear that up.

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, admitted on film that the Irish backstop was used as a "tactical and strategic means to apply permanent pressure on the UK."

Can you please use your contacts in the upper echelons of the EU to find out if Barnier was also joking.


@ PeteW

1. Jokes are acceptable ways of saying unacceptable things.

2. Guy Verhofstadt represent the European Parliament in negotiations http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20160908IPR41661/parliament-appoints-guy-verhofstadt-as-representative-on-brexit-matters

luckily for you, we Brexiteers are on the case.


Sometimes things are just obviously sardonic quips - like the time Liam Byrne left a joke note for his Treasury successor saying "There's no money left" (hint: it wasn't actually true) - but I realise that certain literal minds may not understand irony or sarcasm. Sorry if you are one of those but, if so, I don't know how to explain it to you

GV is not and never has been part of the EU negotiating team. That was known as Taskforce 50 and was led by Michel Barnier. GV was the Euro Parliament's lead link to that team. Brexiters on the case indeed.



'genuinely mystified' about the Windrush generation's lack of proof of residence, but not mystified enough to do a basic search.

The 1st link that came up for me was to a BBC article, which states:

'The Home Office has put the onus on the individual to provide evidence.

It has not been using central tax and pension records, which could prove someone has been working, to support people's applications. Instead, the current system relies on people having kept their own documentation including payslips and bank statements.'

Given that up until the scandal broke in April 2018, the requirement was for 4 pieces of evidence for each year of residence, it is no wonder that people couldn't provide it!


@ PeteW

"Sometimes things are just obviously sardonic quips" . Show me the quote from someone on the EU side explaining this and withdrawing the comment. Oh, there isn't one.

"GV was the Euro Parliament's lead link to that team". Why is there a link? Why do they matter?

GV has made a lot of very aggressive comments about the UK, indicating he thinks that basically he should rule us. Other EU nations have had many chances to say he doesn't speak for them. They haven't



The EP has no formal role in the Brexit negotiation, other than the right to receive regular progress reports. However the conclusion of the withdrawal agreement needs the EP’s consent, by simple majority.

Hence the role of GV and others as liaison with the negotiating team.

So how about you acknowledge and withdraw your weird lie (if it was anyone else I would say "error" but you have form) that GV is part of that negotiating team?


@ PeteW

okay GV is not part of the team that sits down and negotiates directly. But the withdrawal agreement requires the agreement of the European Parliament, so he is not part of the negotiations in the same way that Merkel, Macron, or any other national leader is not part of the negotiations.

All you Remainers, you don't seem to understand that something has gone drastically wrong with the European project. After the unification of Germany France and others were worried that a unified Germany would look away from the EU and build its own influence, so the notion of a European citizenry was born, with citizenship, Parliament, etc to restrain Germany. But instead of restraining Germany, it has given a vehicle for German expansionism. Once again, a hot-patch of demagogic Europeans are using German power to advance their dreams of supremacy. Look at the way the EU is treating Switzerlamd What-The-Fuck? Since when have nations deliberately intimidated other nations in such an overt way?

This is not some cosy group of sovereign states, this is the Euro-nationalist beast out of control. Again.



"Once again, a hot-patch of demagogic Europeans are using German power to advance their dreams of supremacy."

No, this isn't true either. Just stop.

"Since when have nations deliberately intimidated other nations in such an overt way?"

Oh I don't know, since Priti Patel suggested using the threat of food scarcity to force the Irish to drop the backstop? That was a good one.


@ PeteW

"No, this isn't true either. Just stop"

No this is true. here's GV again "“The world is developing into one not of nation states, but of empires. China is an empire. India is an empire. The US is an empire. We need to create a European Union that is capable of defending our interests,”"

These guys are not your friends. You have no influence. They care nothing for you. If you think they will take care of you, you are deluded.


and now ...

"The likely next European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, has said: “My goal is the United States of Europe – based on the model of the federal states of Switzerland, Germany or the US". Remaining in the EU is not status quo but a common tax, military and much more."

How many people in positions of power have to say this until the message gets through? And do you really think you could just sit and veto this stuff ad infinitum?


Oh my god. A candidate for EU Commission president favours stronger European integration. The scales have fallen from my eyes. Thank you Dipper.


@ PeteW. But the case from many Remainers was that we would not be in a federal Europe and could veto it.

Taking this with the general response to my pointing out what the EC Demographic projections are: Do you want to be in the EU because you agree with the aims of the organisation and want to work with your fellow members in achieving them, and because you want the things that the EU says will happen to us if we stay to happen? Or do you want to be in the EU because you disagree with the aims of your fellow members and want to stop them achieving them and don't believe the things the EU says will happen to us will happen?

Rajib Dalui

Nice post author. Thank you.

Basudeb Das

Thank you author. Keep it up.

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